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The Tradition Keeper: Lon Kriner

The Tradition Keeper: Lon Kriner

Lon Kriner vividly recalls the day his son Brandon first found an arrowhead. It was 22 years ago, when Brandon was about age 8. Father and son were on a fishing trip east of Canton, Ohio. “We were talking about my finding arrowheads as a child, and he found one,” recalls Kriner, chair of the University’s counseling programs. “He found one with little effort. It really stands out to me that we were able to share that.”

With that innocent act, Brandon became a contributor to an arrowhead collection that spans five generations of the Kriner family–a collection that now numbers 300 artifacts, all found within a five-square-mile area. “The collection was started by my great-grandfather while he was working on a sawmill and cider mill,” Kriner recalls. “He found ‘Indian points.’ After my father retired he spent a whole lot of time looking and adding to the collection.”

Kriner’s great-grandfather was still alive when that summer day when Brandon made his first find, so, which made the discovery even sweeter. Kriner himself became actively involved as a boy, often in the company of his cousins. In rural Stark County, Ohio, it was a great way to pass the time on a lazy summer day. “We would go out and look for arrowheads, mostly out of boredom,” he says. “There was nothing really to do, so we’d go out for hours, looking and looking.”

Boredom soon turned to genuine interest, then into a longtime hobby. “I’m always fascinated to find something that was made by craftsmen so many years ago,” he says. “I’ve come to find there’s a huge field in this area that I didn’t know very much about until recently.

“For example, there are different eras or periods, and then there are different styles depending on where they are in North America—over 1,000 different types. We are in the East Central area, so there are Paleo artifacts that are 11,000 or so years old, and then more of the contemporary. I don’t have any of the early Paleo arrowheads, but I have several early Archaic arrowheads. Those can be as much as 10,000 years old. And then I have samples all the way through from all these different eras.”

Of course, level of interest didn’t make finding the arrowheads any easier. It’s a matter of patience and chance. “Sometimes they’re laying right on top of the ground, and that’s how you find him,” he says. “And remember that a lot of this was initiated by boredom. There was nothing to do, so I went for a walk in a cornfield to look for them. Sometimes I’d go for days and days and days looking for one, and then one afternoon find three or four or five of them. It depends on where they’re cached.”

Over the years, the collection grew beyond arrowheads, to include knives and scrapers. Kriner’s favorite is a green-tinged scraping knife, which he estimates is between 600 and 1,100 years old, and may be worth about $50. “I’ve had my entire collection appraised to about $3,000 dollars,” he says. “And about six of those worth about $1,000 altogether. What makes a difference for price is not only the age but also the condition of the arrowhead. If it has a chip taken out of it, for example, it loses its value.”

It goes without saying that authenticity is also key—and not to be taken for granted. “There are a lot of fakes in the market,” Kriner says. “There is a big market now for counterfeit arrowheads, and they’ll sell anywhere from a couple dollars to $3,000 or $4,000.”

Dollar value is a moot point to Kriner. He hasn’t added to the collection in recent years and intends to one day pass it on to his children—but not yet. “I imagine that since it’s been in the family so long, it will stay in the family,” he says. “You never say ‘never.’ If I’m down to my last $3,000, OK, maybe then. They increase in value because of the provenance, because they’ve been in the family. There are a lot of folks who buy and sell Indian artifacts, so there’s a large market out there, and this collection isn’t a part of it. I know there are no fakes in this collection.”

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